Relation of hippocampal phospho-SAPK/JNK granules in Alzheimer's disease and tauopathies to granulovacuolar degeneration bodies

Acta Neuropathol. 2007 Jan;113(1):63-73. doi: 10.1007/s00401-006-0159-4. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


Protein misfolding is a distinguishing feature of a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Accumulation of misfolded protein often results in cellular lesions, the location of lesions correlating with the nature of symptoms. Alzheimer's disease (AD), Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) and Pick's Disease (PiD) all present with pathological lesions containing hyperphosphorylated filamentous tau protein; however, the location and type of lesion varies. In addition, granulovacuolar degeneration (GVD) bodies have been reported within hippocampal pyramidal neurons in AD, PSP, CBD and PiD tissue. GVDs are defined as electron-dense granules within double membrane-bound cytoplasmic vacuoles. We have previously reported that the phosphorylated form of stress-activated protein kinase/c-Jun N-terminal kinase (p-SAPK/JNK) accumulates in granules within hippocampal pyramidal cell bodies in AD tissue at the time that hyperphosphorylated tau begins to aggregate into early-stage NFTs. We now report that p-SAPK/JNK granules are found within the hippocampal CA1 region of PSP, CBD and PiD cases as well and that these granules are likely GVD bodies. Quantitatively, p-SAPK/JNK granules and GVDs are found in comparable numbers of CA1 cells. Within cells, p-SAPK/JNK granules are distributed throughout the cytoplasm in a manner similar to the distribution of GVDs and a subset of granules co-localize with GVD markers. Ultrastructurally, p-SAPK/JNK granules are located in large cytoplasmic vacuoles, thereby fitting the definition of a GVD body. With the implication of granular p-SAPK/JNK as a marker of GVDs, our study strongly suggests that a heterogeneous group of proteins form GVDs. The mechanism of GVD formation is therefore an interesting one, and is likely separate and distinct from the mechanism of tau inclusion formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / enzymology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / pathology*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / enzymology*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pick Disease of the Brain
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive
  • Tauopathies / complications
  • Tauopathies / enzymology
  • Tauopathies / pathology*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / pathology
  • Vacuoles / ultrastructure


  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases